Several women in their seasonal work as fire watchers in Portugal. The film comes close to their breathing, to the passing of time and to solitude, from within.
Somewhere in the Portuguese countryside, probably during summer, lives hang in mid-air, between the ashes and the clouds. Dina, Adriana, Helena, and a few others have a seasonal job: to watch over the landscape from one of the 280 towers strewn across the area to prevent wildfires. We will hardly catch a glimpse of the fires (aside from a white plume of smoke, duly and diligently reported); instead, the film focuses on the periods of idle time that fill up the uneventful days of these quiet lookouts. Lulled by a persistent murmur in which the wind, the rustling of insects, the distant barking of dogs, and the crackling transmission of walkie-talkies are interweaved, their untiring observation feels like drowning into the landscape – and into the watching itself. Nature, though blind, seems under their watch to be watching them back. Nor is it the only one. In addition to the control centre, charged with coordinating the work of the lookouts, the viewer is entirely caught up in the troubling miracle of the gaze. From a blinding sunrise to a windswept sunset, the Bolex camera films the lookouts up close, fixed on their tireless eyes and their movements repeated a hundred times. But it also feels like watching them through a telescope: silent, often captured through the iridescent glass windows of their cabs, wrapped up in the mystery of their watchful solitude, they are themselves like a faraway landscape about to go up in smoke.
Margaux Dauby is a Belgian filmmaker and visual artist. She graduated in Political Science from the Université Libre de Bruxelles and holds a Master in Audiovisual Arts from the Sint-Lukas Hogeschool in Brussels. Her practice starts from the questioning of notions of language, play, attachment and belonging. She lives and works between Lisbon and Brussels.
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